What a conversation-starter.
This was the query I got when I cooked a nice meal and sat my family around the table, encouraging them to talk about their day. It was something we had not been doing regularly, and I felt it was time for a change of pace.
I was auspicious after the last round of unsolicited questions, which eventually led to my inadvertant rookie disclosure of certain untoward high school activities involving boys and alcohol. But between my work schedule, the overburdening plague of summer field trips, the start of fall sports and the overlap with dwindling summer sports, most of our evening meals lately seem to include 1) things that come in wrappers and traditionally constitute a snack; 2) meals that can be created completely from cold ingredients and consumed while hovered over the sink; 3) substances referred to by abbreviation or acronym (MAC, BLT, PB&J); or 4) weekend leftovers of questionable maturity. Virtually all of these are “enjoyed” with SpongeBob Squarepants and/or Taylor Swift blaring in the background.
So. A real bona fide genu-wine family meal was in order. And conversation. We needed conversation. The only problem was, now I had exactly what I was asking for.
“Mommy! Hello! Do you and Daddy ever french kiss?”
They stared at me, their pasta forks dangling. They waited motionless, without bothering to breathe, for a response.
Sweet Pea pointed at me with her fork, flailing sauce at me. “HA! WHEN!?”
I wasn’t sure what the “ha!” was about, but it scared me. I imagined a poorly lit back-room betting parlor, The Preschooler donning a green translucent visor and ticking off the odds on a chalkboard, taking Sweet Pea’s money and licking his fingers as he counted out the dough.
As for the new inquiry – “when?” – there were so many ways to answer this question. This was treading into an area of curiosity for them that would lead to other conversations I really did not want to have with a six and eight year-old. If I was about to have that conversation here, now, without Husband present for
help backup entertainment, then I was going to kill the United States Navy. All of it.
The obvious explanation was that it was none of their business, but that answer was out of the question. I knew by the blunt force trauma of experience that this was the route to guaranteed ruin and destruction. I mentally recalled several information vacuums of the past which they had filled in with their own untoward imaginations. These confabulations had been far more damaging than the actual truth. Worse, their ideas had become actually true for them once repeated to each other. And there’s the danger. Because this of course makes the details repeatable to random individuals of their chosing – folks like teachers and babysitters and pastors and grandmothers. I shuddered thinking of the time The Preschooler told his Christian Daycare teacher that his mommy wouldn’t let him go to church because she didn’t believe in Jesus.
So instead, I chose something equally elusive and slightly less repulsive than whatever they were going to tell all of their friends as a result of the conversation:
“We kiss when YOU MONKEYS aren’t looking – that’s when!”
“Ewwww, gross! Sick, mom. You french kiss – you LET him french kiss you? Dizz-gusting!”
They wriggled and giggled and regaled all of the lurid, germ-infested details. I wondered how in the world they knew what a french kiss looked like and for that matter how they even knew what it was called. I blamed SpongeBob and Taylor Swift. In all the ruckus I just sat back and laughed, pleased with my little family dinner, and watched them splatter pasta sauce on my kitchen floor as they chattered. And in my mind I defended french kissing.
I missed it.
I cleaned up the saucy mess, got the kids off to bed, and I sat down at the kitchen table thinking about that french kiss. I was a little disturbed by the fact that I actually didn’t know the answer to the question when it was first asked. When do we french kiss, anyway?
What that means is deployment is officially getting old. I am growing weary of the hectic one-woman one-armed paperhanger schedule. There is a growing list of key childhood moments which the kids happily report via Skype, but I see the look Husband hides in his eyes. He smiles and sends virtual high-fives and then gulps, realizing he can never really get those moments back. I know there’s misplaced guilt there, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. I’m growing weary of the sheer physical distance, measured best by the fact that you could drill a hole straight through the Earth from where I am and come out somewhere close to his base. There isn’t a habitable place on this entire planet where he could go to get farther away from us. Above all, I am growing weary with the length of time as it stretches on, and I look menacingly at the one year mark on the calendar as it comes and goes. One year.
For some reason the home stretch has been the hardest, longest part of this deployment. Somehow it’s just numb. I seem to zombie my way through the days on autopilot, getting to my destination and looking back in reflection without a clue how I got there. I know I’m supposed to be excited. Afterall, people (whose husbands are not deployed) say things like, “oh, that’s great. It’s not long, now!” The problem is, I find myself both anticipating the homecoming and dreading the friction that regularly comes with reintegration so that notion doesn’t bring relief. It brings nervous confusion. I’m trying, very hard, to focus on the fact that we are just in for another change. That’s all. Not good, not bad, not a reversal in time to the way things used to be.
So, I’m embracing (or bracing for) a new upcoming year of change. This must be Emotional Cycle of Deployment Phase Twelve: Numb Acceptance. But hey, maybe we will add dinner-time french kissing to the list of changes, who knows? Worst-case scenario, we will drive the kids out with our disgusting behavior and have a nice, quiet dinner to ourselves.